What Football Taught Me About Magic

Alchemy and Magic

M

iracles,

You’d never know it was early September here in San Antonio. Every so often we get a thrilling hint of the big change coming, but most days the 100 degree temperatures will throw us off track. I was sitting at the edge of the sandy pitch of a field watching a football game the other week while the sun pounded down on top of me, wondering, how did this happen…? What wrong turn did I take?

It wasn’t just the heat. I was in this field, in the sun, to watch my son play football. This was not something I could ever have seen coming. Growing up in Texas there were a few things I made it my business to avoid: pushy Bible-thumpers, getting married too young, irresponsible gun owners, sport hunters, and…football.

Although there was a very brief period where I waved pom-poms and shouted cheers on the sideline of football fields, and the time I sang the national anthem to open up a state championship game, I did not like the sport. From my viewpoint, it was the source of never-ending budget woes for the fine art departments all across the state. Football was always the reason we couldn’t afford new costumes or light gels or sound systems for theatrical and choral events. But even more, I bought into the notion that all football players were dumb jocks and chose to ignore or overlook the fact that there were quite a few of them in my honors and advanced placement classes. Football was huge at my rural high school. It was everything to many people, life itself, and I wanted no part of it. I didn’t like it and so I paid zero attention to it.

After high school, I went to a very small liberal arts college tucked away in the mountains. The college did not have a football field, much less an athletic team. (We did, however, have “Spartan Mad Ball”, but that is a story for another day.) So I never really thought much about the game after the age of 18. I would watch the Super Bowl with my family for the commercials and I cheered when the New Orleans Saints won one year and when the Eagles won a couple of years back because I like come-from-behind victory stories of any stripe. But generally speaking, football was not a part of my life in any significant way.

Our oldest child is a gifted visual artist and musician. He likes playing basketball and soccer, and so I never really had cause to think about his relationship to football other than to look at the data around concussions and decide unilaterally that he would never play full contact unless the game radically changed.

Then, last spring, talk of flag football came up. Then again, in summer when registration opened. I found myself in both cases writing my son’s name on the lines of various lists, and it was like the experiences you hear people report when they die – of seeing themselves from a far off distance…it was like that, disembodied.

Before I knew it, a team had been formed and my son came home and told me he was playing “center”. My husband told me that our son would be responsible for “snapping” the ball. He said this as if it were perfectly obvious what all of those words meant. And all I could think was “damn, damn, damn, damn…I have no idea what is happening!!!”

If you know any kids, you know that every now and then they talk about stuff with this air of confidence and you maybe know .05% of what they are talking about. But you still know .05%. In this case, I knew precisely 0%. This was a first for me. So I woke up early as I do, worked on the upcoming book, and then found myself in the unfamiliar world of ESPN. And friends, it is a WORLD.

I learned the basics about flag football, the names of the positions for starters, and delved into the craziness of different plays. I discovered that many of the best college players are also outstanding academically and that some of the greatest pro players of all time were also dancers. I saw lots of articles on the various problems and hypocrisies of the NFL and of pro sports in general, but I also saw community outreach and the ways that these organizations are trying to do better. I was humbled by how much I didn’t know, and by how many wrong things I had assumed. I talked to a mom friend of mine who is sports savvy and I confessed my ignorance and new-found knowledge to her while she benevolently chuckled.

Now I am not sure that I could call myself a fan of football. In fact, I am pretty sure I can’t call myself that. And I have no clue if my child will play after this season or if his little brother will want to play at all. But none of those things are the point of this story. This is not about how I came to love football. Rather, this is about how I thought I knew something for sure – about an activity, the people who do it and the people who enjoy it – and how I crashed, face-first into how wrong those assumptions were. It was painful, what they call a “growth” experience, but it was also direct teaching about magic.

Think on it. Take whatever situation you would like to magically charm this way or that and ask yourself what assumptions underpinning your intentions you are carrying about the situation, about the people involved, about the external conditions, and most of all about your relationship to those things. What if your assumptions are off by just a little? What if they are dead wrong? What if there is a lot more territory to roam and explore within the situation than you originally were able to see? How does that change your magic? How does that change you?

You know if you’ve read my book “Making Magic”, that I never give a “definition” of magic. In my view and experience, no such thing is possible, because magic is radically particular to each person and each situation.

But we can describe some conditions for magic, and this is one of them, the moment when one of your most cherished beliefs is given a vigorous shaking by some experience.

Magic happens in the space these questions create. the changes that could flow from them, and our ability to follow them out where ever they may lead. It happens in the completely unexpected, un-looked for, and least likely places…like a hot football field in South Central Texas.

So, I’ll continue to sit there in the 100 degree heat watching a game that challenges all of my assumptions, because I want to see where all of this leads not only with my child but with my relationships and with my life as a whole. What friendships will be created, fostered (or even dissolved)? What new insights will this experience afford all of us? What magic will be made?

We are celebrating a Full Moon in Pisces today, and Pisces loves challenging assumptions. Let yourself celebrate by paying close attention to your dreams and taking a magical sacred bath.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Tribe is Tribe

Foundations

M

iracles, tribe

I was in an import store shopping for my best friend’s birthday a few weeks ago. I had found a piece of jewelry that I knew she would love and as the store owner was ringing me up I was explaining to her that my bestie is originally from Iran and that while this piece is not from her home country she would still love and appreciate it.

The store owner interrupted me though and simply said, “She’ll love it because tribe is tribe.” Tribe is tribe. She said it with all of the confidence and clarity of a woman who has spent that majority of her life among and within tribes.

Tribe is tribe.

I know that in our never-resting news cycle the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio that occurred at the beginning of the month are old news for most of us. They have left, as all mass shootings have since 2011, their fingerprints all over me though and are still fresh.

As I fielded emails from people asking if I was alright and checked on my own set of family and friends with El Paso connections, I kept hearing that woman’s voice in my head – tribe is tribe.

And I wasn’t sure why but I knew it was important. Then I took a walk down one of my favorite streets where an Acequia was full of water and running at force and I remembered. What I remembered was a psych class I took about a hundred years ago.

We were studying mental health in indigenous populations and I learned that one of the indigenous populations found in New Mexico and Arizona – the Navajo People – have a very specific way of looking at mental illness (and many physical afflictions too). The understanding is that while one person in the tribe may show symptoms of illness, be it mental or physical, the entire tribe is actually afflicted and that any healing that is worth a damn will address not just the individual who is obviously ill but the entire tribe.

I have been marked by every mass shooting since 2011 because that is the year I had my first baby. And that is the year when I found myself worrying about everything: leaving out a tiny piece of something that the baby could choke on, losing him to SIDS, speeding cars, and falling shelves, and…going into a public place where my child could be shot and killed, or I could be shot and killed leaving my baby without a mother or my husband could be shot and killed leaving my baby without a father. 2011 is when I started taking it personally.

Every time I packed lunch for my little one to take to school I would lay down a prayer that my baby and every baby child would be protected from a bullet, that today would not be a day a mass shooter came to a school, a place of worship, a place of work, or a place of fun. Now that I no longer make his lunch I pray that prayer every morning.

And because my babies are beautiful, blond-haired, blue-eyed, boys, I also pray that they are never the ones holding a gun aimed at someone else’s baby – because the statistics indicate that my boys fall into the category of the ones most likely to commit a mass shooting as well as most likely to commit suicide with a gun.

I don’t go into politics in my work or my writing. I remember sitting in hard-backed pews at the Baptist church and resenting the hell out of a preacher who had the audacity to tell me who to vote for. Dressing up that unique kind of tyranny in the “New Age” trappings of incense and crystals don’t make me feel any better. I believe our founders knew what they were about when they separated church and state.

However, for better or for worse, I am a spiritual teacher and writer and as such, I have a community of people who look to me for moral guidance. When the bullets start to fly I am asked to give words of comfort, clarity, and wisdom. To be clear: this is a task that I in no way feel adequate to, but it is also one that has been laid on my shoulders by nature of my work. So this is what I say: Tribe is Tribe.

And the killings and the killers are part of our tribe. There are many people in our tribe who are ill, who are hurting, and who are sick, but at the end of the day, all that really means is that our whole tribe is hurting, is ill, and is sick. Any remedy that further separates us from each other is no remedy at all and any attempt to bring some of the tribe together while leaving others out in the cold has failed before it even begins.

In 2011 I joined a special club, a tribe within a tribe, of parents who send their children to school every day praying that today won’t be the day that their child’s classroom door bursts open and guns begin shooting. We pray that today won’t be the day our babies are shot, today won’t be the day our babies are killed.

But this is not just my club, my tribe, or my problem. Tribe is tribe. This is everyone’s problem. The fact that bulletproof backpack sales have gone up 300% before the 2019-2020 school year begins is not my problem or the problem of my other parent friends, it is also my Republican uncle’s problem, my Progressive mother-in-law’s problem, and it is your problem too. Because tribe is tribe.

Every baby that dies and every person who thinks they can solve their problems with a gun pointed at someone else is everyone’s problem, the only way to address it is together, most especially together with the very ones you don’t want to deal with. You know, the difficult members of the tribe who look different and talk different, the ones that make you uncomfortable, the ones you’d rather not talk to.

You know Miracles, the inverse is also true. If one person commits to healing, to betterment, to living a life of integrity and justice and kindness then the tribe as a whole is blessed by that too. One of my favorite stories to illustrate this comes from the Jewish tradition.

It is the tale of the Tzadikim-Nistarim – the hidden righteous ones. They are 13 people who, through consistent right action, uphold the entire world and make life possible for all. My favorite part of this story is that these righteous ones are hidden even from themselves.

Meaning that it could be you, it could be me, it could be any of us. Because what one of us does touches all of us. Because tribe is tribe. And because there is nowhere else to go, nowhere else to be, but right here, with everyone else.

Here is a version of the prayer that I pray over my babies on a daily basis, feel free to work with it in your own life if it speaks to you.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.